This past weekend we ventured to Asheville, NC. It was half fun family memories and half Murphy’s law. Initially we discussed make it a mom & dad weekend, but later decided to take the girls and make it a family adventure. The forecast was calling for snow so we were excited for them to experience it since it’s not something we see here in Columbia, SC very often.
I was feeling super nostalgic about going back because Brad and I hadn’t been to Asheville since our ‘Babymoon’. We last visited in November of 2016 when I was 7 months pregnant with Laney.
Friday began as every other Friday did: I worked out with my trainer, Brad went to work, I took Laney to school, I played in a tennis match and picked Laney up from school. A quick shower for me and lunch for the girls later, we loaded up, made a pitstop at Chick-fil-A for me and Brad and set off for his office to pick him since it was in the same direction as the mountains. We were officially on the road by 2:30pm and had a relaxing ride. It’s always fun to start seeing the mountains in the distance and feeling the pressure change to know that we’re almost there. As we came into town, the misty rain turned into small snow flurries, which picked up the closer we got to the hotel.
We opted to stay in Biltmore Village since the majority of our trip would be spent on the estate property. A brand new Home2 Suites by Hilton had just opened a couple of weeks ago and I was able to get a great rate on a room with plenty of space of our family of four. The bottom floor was a parking garage with the lobby on the second floor and the rooms on the floors above that. The staff was very friendly and we were given a room on the top floor overlooking part of the village. By the time we got to the room big snowflakes were falling! We went ahead and set up Morgan’s pack n play, made Laney’s pull out couch bed and got things organized for when we got back from dinner. We had discussed checking out Sierra Nevada’s Brewery and set off on our way. It was about a 20 minute drive from Biltmore Village and had the prettiest entrance with a long driveway leading up to the brewery. The taproom was very large and had no wait for a Friday night at 6:30pm. Winning! The menu is tapas style with a great kids menu. Morgan and Laney split macaroni and cheese with crispy green beans and then Brad and I ordered pizza and wings. We also had our eye on a bison sirloin that sounds delicious but never had a chance to order it for reasons I’ll share in a minute. Brad and I also decided to split a flight of beer so that we could try several different options. A flight of 4 beers was only $6! We had the Pale Ale, Hop Hunter, Sierraveza and Tropical Torpedo IPA. I’m usually not an IPA fan but the flavor profile was totally up my alley and ended up being my favorite. The Sierraveza was my second favorite. It reminded me of the perfect beer to sip during a day at the beach. All was going well until dinner arrived. Laney had already eaten Mac & cheese for lunch that day, but sometimes you choose your battles and just let her have it again for dinner too. However, we wanted her to eat a green bean. Just one. But not being much a veggie eater unless it is broccoli, Laney threw a fit and absolutely lost it at the dinner table. When she couldn’t settle, Brad took her outside to calm down. This was unsuccessful and Laney cried to the point of making herself sick … cue the phone call for me to get the check and pack up dinner for the hotel. I switched with Brad to get the girls loaded into the car while he waited for the chicken wings order and paid the bill.
Tensions were a little high as I drove us back to the hotel and it didn’t help that Siri kept trying to give me directions to a Home2 Suites everywhere but the one in Asheville. Eventually we made it back and set up a picnic dinner in the room. I was happy to see that Brad had picked up a 6 pack of the Tropical Torpedo from the gift shop on the way out since we basically had to abandon our flight a few sips in. It was a sweet surprise that I could enjoy during the weekend and take back home too. I then ran downstairs to the laundry room to throw in a load of clothes, got the girls ready for bed and tucked them in. Brad took second shift on the laundry and came back in with a nightcap treat — a Snickers ice cream bar for him and Twix ice cream bar for me. Cheers!
I think the girls were excited about being in a hotel room and thus had a tough time settling for bedtime. Morgan thought the curtain separating the room (and the girls from us) was the perfect toy and Laney kept trying to crawl into bed with us. It also didn’t help that there were some wild kids that kept running up and down the halls, as they had been all evening. We eventually caved and turned on the Disney Channel to see if that would help. Over time it did and we all fell asleep to it.
As expected, the girls were up first thing. Laney was thirsty and needed to potty and as soon as Morgan saw me, she wanted out of her pack n play. Laney had also already been up once before around 5:00am to go potty and dropped her paci on the floor so I had to wash one in the dark then too. We all got up a little after 8:00am, showered, dressed and went downstairs for breakfast. It’s what you would expect from a free hotel breakfast offering. Waffle station, toast, bagels, limited fruits, cereal, milk, juice, yogurt and a microwave that had various selections beside it wrapped in plastic like you would see at Starbucks that need to be warmed including eggs, breakfast sandwiches and pancakes. The girls both had yogurt, munched on cereal, I split a waffle with Laney and Brad had a bagel. It wasn’t great but it was sufficient. The only thing we definitely didn’t like was the seating arrangements. It’s one of those breakfast areas by morning, urban chic lobby by day with small seating areas with plush chairs and small funky tables. They maybe had 3 true to tables with table height chairs; the rest of the room was funky little seating areas. It wasn’t until after we finished eating that I noticed all of the snow outside! We had gotten a lot of snow overnight and there was a fresh blanket on everything! Even though the temperature didn’t get much higher than freezing, it all melted fairly quickly and was gone by lunchtime.
It was nice to have been able to park under the cover of the hotel to not have to scrape the snow off of my car after breakfast when we were ready to leave. We piled into the car and set off for The Biltmore Estate which was literally a 2 minute drive from our hotel. There was also a prime Starbucks location beside the entrance that we utilized prior to driving through the gate. Because our tour wasn’t until the afternoon, we made our way to Antler Hill Village to walk the shops and see some animals.
We parked and made our way up to the small farmyard. There they have chickens, a donkey, sheep, pigs and goats. Out in the distance there are also 3 retired Clydesdale horses. After that we walked the rest of Antler Hill Village. We shopped a little clothing store where Laney found her stuffed horse she had to have and then we went through the Winery store. Since we had the girls and stroller with us, we opted not to walk through the wine cellar tunnel to get to the shop. The way we had to go to utilize an elevator for the stroller took us into the Village Hotel, right past a coffee bar and upstairs to a cozy seating area in front of a fireplace. From the second we walked in the door, we were totally impressed by the luxurious feel of the hotel and knew that next time we visited, with out without the girls, we would be splurging to stay there. Between comfort and convenience, we’re at the age where that is more important than trying to save a lot on the hotel room. Lesson learned — especially since we were having to time our morning around getting lunch and getting back to the hotel for naps before coming back for the house tour. We then walked the winery shop, forgoing the free wine tasting, and purchased a bottle of grape juice that the whole family could enjoy. Next time, wine. I’ve always wanted to taste their wines. Afterwards we walked through the current exhibit which features clothing worn by the actors and actresses of Downton Abbey, the show and the movie. They were very neat and Laney kept wanting to play dress up. With just a little bit more time left before we needed to leave, we walked back down to the playground that is located near the farmyard. Antler Hill Village also has a really cute bakery and a restaurant, Cedric’s Tavern, that is really good. We ate there on our Babymoon. There is also a stable area above the playground that houses additional horses and has some blacksmith demonstrations. We didn’t have time for that but enjoyed crunching through the last bit of snow that was left and letting the girls burn some energy on the playground.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped at Wendy’s for chicken nuggets for the girls and then Jimmy John’s for me and Brad, both right by our hotel. We had a picnic lunch in the room and then all laid down for a nap. Well, an attempted nap. It turned into a pajama party in our king bed and no one ended up sleeping. We all just tried to rest the best we could in the dark until 3:00pm or so. At that time, we freshened up, packed up and made our way back to the estate, this time for our tour.
We initially planned our trip because my parents are annual passholders and during certain dates, they are given vouchers for free one-day passes, which is what we were using. (Children 9 and under are free.) By the time we finally pulled the trigger to plan our trip, the only times available for a Leap Day tour were in the afternoon so I opted for 4:30pm hoping that would allow for naps. (Jokes on me.) We parked in the passholder lot, made the short walk to the house, went through security and let the girls walk around on the large front lawn. We also had to get some family pictures in front of the estate.
When it was close to our tour time, we made our way to the line in front of the house. Morgan was refusing to be held so I let her keep walking until I had to pick her up to go inside. Laney had climbed up on a concrete ledge and just as I was about to get her down, Morgan attempted to go up the little concrete steps that Laney was on and tripped … falling face first into the next step. Insert major mom guilt. Luckily, I was able to calm her right down, Brad grabbed Laney, we made it into the house and all seemed well.
We had just finished walking the first floor and were headed to the second floor when Morgan started screaming crying. It seemed to get worse when we passed windows — it was like she just wanted to get back outside to play. I tried to sneak and give her a small piece of a cracker (food isn’t allowed inside) but that didn’t stop the tears. Then she seemed happy playing with my sunglasses but that didn’t last long before the tantrum started up again and she almost broke them. By this time I felt horrible for potentially ruining others’ experience and knew we had to bail. Luckily we were coming back down the main staircase before you would continue the tour by descending down to the lower floors and we were able to just walk back out the front door.
We walked towards the side where the old carriage house has been turned into a restaurant and shops as well as a courtyard with a bakery and an ice cream shop. We got in line for the bakery to get a coffee and a treat for the girls, but Morgan started to lose it again so we bailed on that too. Back to the lawn we went. It was at this time that I noticed the goose egg that had appeared right between Morgan’s eyes. [Enter more mom guilt from her fall before our tour.] I felt absolutely terrible, but luckily it didn’t seem to bother her when we messed with it.
Lots of running around, all of the snacks in my purse and a few pennies in the fountain later, Morgan was exhausted from being on #teamnonap so Brad offered to take her to the car while Laney and I walked through the Conservatory. So we parted ways and walked down to look at all of the plants and flowers. I tried to take a selfie with Laney outside of the building but she told me no. Inside I asked her again in front of some pretty flowers. “No.” And again where they had some old white iron benches. Again “no”, but this time she added “I already told you that outside!”
Once we had our fill, we walked to meet Brad and Morgan at the car. Morgan was passed out in her carseat and Brad was also reclined in the driver’s seat with his eyes closed. We were all wiped out but ready for dinner. But first we made a quick trip back over to Antler Hill Village to drive through and see the animals one last time.
Our hotel had a Japanese steakhouse, Ichiban, right outside it’s front door with great reviews so we opted for sushi and knew the girls would devour some fried rice. For a Saturday night around 7:00pm, the wait for a regular dining table was a little over 30 minutes. Unfortunately the service wasn’t great and the food was slow. The girls got their dinner in a reasonable amount of time because we placed it with the drink order but Brad and I didn’t get our sushi until 8:30pm. It made for a late evening. By the end of dinner, Laney was laying in my lap. With full bellies and tired kiddos, we walked back over to the hotel and got ready for bed. As expected, the girls crashed; we didn’t hear a peep out of them until after 8:00am Sunday morning.
On our way into Asheville on Friday, we passed Biscuit Head and wanted to eat there for Sunday brunch on our way out of town, but decided to stick with a family favorite and get a breakfast we knew the girls would enjoy: Cracker Barrel. Or as Laney calls it, Cracker Berry. We checked out of the hotel (Brad said there were like 100 people in the lobby when he grabbed a luggage cart so I’m glad we didn’t attempt their breakfast again) and felt like that was a wrap on a crazy weekend of meltdowns and boo boos. Well we had one more hiccup in store for us. After we were seated at our table and ordered drinks, the waitress brought back a tray and proceeded to spill everything on me and my side of the table. My left side was drenched in tea. Nice. Oh well, par for the course. Luckily my pecan pancakes were delicious as always, Brad enjoyed his French toast and the girls shared their plate of pancakes. This was actually Morgan’s first time having a real pancake and she loved it!
The ride home was quiet from the backseat as Morgan looked out the window and Laney watched a movie. Brad and I just enjoyed listening to Christian music on our Sunday drive and were home around 2:00pm. Just in time to get the girls down for afternoon naps and for us to unpack and lounge as well. After a rollercoaster of a weekend, we all enjoyed the quiet time in the comfort of our own home.
After that whirlwind, I officially need a hat that says ‘Chaos Coordinator.’ What did you do this past weekend to celebrate Leap Day?